Washington's Top Benefits 2009

By Brendan Speigel June 22, 2009, 11:30 AM EDT

Artrageous at the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Photo: Tony Brown/Imijination Photography for BizBash

1. Knock Out Abuse and Fight Night Gala
This two-in-one party encompasses the Knock Out Abuse Against Women gala—a lavish women-only fete for 650 at the Ritz-Carlton, Washington, D.C.—while 2,000 men simultaneously enjoy Fight Night, an evening of boxing matches at the Hilton Washington. The two parties join for a gender-neutral after-party. The dual fund-raisers for anti-domestic-violence causes and the health care nonprofit Fight for Children return November 5.

2. The Opera Ball
The Washington National Opera’s elite event brings some 500 guests—including Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and Congressman Dennis Kucinich in 2008—to a different ambassador’s residence each year. The German ambassador hosted this year’s June 5 ball.

3. YouthAIDS Benefit Gala
Ashley Judd, Sharon Osbourne, and Anna Kournikova were among the 550 guests at Population Services International’s 2008 benefit at the Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner. The rock 'n' roll theme party, which raised $1.2 million for the organization, returns this November.

4. Corcoran Ball
More than 1,000 guests attended the Corcoran Gallery of Art April 17 for this 54th annual gala, planned by the gallery’s women’s committee and benefiting the Corcoran and the College of Art + Design.

5. National Italian American Foundation Gala
The N.I.A.F.’s 2008 black-tie event raised more than $1 million from 3,000 guests, including a who’s who of notable Italian-American names, such as Rudy Giuliani and Nancy Pelosi. The 2009 gala is slated for October 24 at the Hilton Washington hotel.

6. The Leukemia Ball
The National Capital Area chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society brought some 2,000 supporters to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on March 21, where a performance by Earth, Wind & Fire helped raise more than $3 million.

7. John F. Kennedy Center for the Arts Spring Benefit
This year’s “A Celebration of Women in the Arts” gala brought 1,200 guests to the Kennedy Center on May 3 for an evening of performances and appearances by A-list women artists such as Patti LaBelle, Annie Leibovitz, and Kathleen Turner.

8. Fight for Children’s School Night Benefit
This nonprofit organization’s benefit returned in 2008 after a three-year absence and raised $1.5 million. This year's May 15 benefit moved to a new location, the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.

9. Prevent Cancer Foundation’s Annual Spring Gala
This spring fling upped its fund-raising prowess in March 2009, pulling in $1.4 million from more than 1,000 guests. The foundation’s fete is centered on a different country each year—the Peruvian-themed 16th annual gala at the National Building Museum included Andean music, ceviche, and pisco sours.

10. Meridian Ball
In 2008, this 40th annual benefit for public diplomacy nonprofit the Meridian International Center started with small dinners at ambassador’s homes throughout the District, followed by dancing for 800 at the Meridian House. The event returns October 2.

11. Washington National Opera Midwinter Gala
The opera’s Greek-themed February fund-raiser scaled back slightly this year, bringing just 320 guests, down from 500 in 2008. Held at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, the gala returns in February 2010.

12. Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Breath of Life Gala
The local branch of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation raised nearly $3.2 million at its 2008 gala, where 750 guests bid on auction items such as backstage passes to a Dave Matthews concert. This year’s gala is set for November 14th at the National Building Museum.

13. Gourmet Gala Benefiting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
This foodie favorite offered tastes from 40 of D.C.’s top chefs at the 11th annual gala in February. About 750 guests filled the National Building Museum and helped raise $420,000 to benefit the hospital. Next year’s gala is set for February 16.

14. Washington Ballet Spring Gala
Artistic director Septime Webre was honored for his 10 years leading the company at this May 9 fete at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium. Ballet patrons also scoped out evening wear at a pre-gala fashion fund-raiser at Saks Fifth Avenue in April.

15. Heart of America Foundation’s Sweet Charity Benefit
Leon Harris of ABC7 and Bob Madigan of WTOP were drafted as M.C.s for this May 11 party at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. The gala benefits the Heart of America Foundation, which provides books to at-risk children.

16. Artrageous
Formerly held in November, this Smithsonian American Art Museum benefit welcomed 500 guests to the museum’s Kogod Courtyard on February 26.

17. March of Dimes Gourmet Gala
Members of Congress and their spouses play Top Chef at this festive cook-off, which raised more than $1 million in 2008. Texas Representative Randy Neugebauer and his wife, Dana, defended their title at this year’s gala, held May 6 at the National Building Museum.

18. Ambassadors Ball
MSNBC’s Norah O’Donnell served as M.C. for this gala in September 2008, when 750 guests raised $775,000 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The 31st annual ball will be held September 16 at the Washington Hilton hotel.

19. Folger Shakespeare Library Gala
The library celebrated the Folger Theatre’s production of The Winter’s Tale and Folger Consort’s performance of works inspired by Don Quixote with a Mediterranean-themed gala on April 22. Last year’s gala raised $325,000 for this arts and research complex.

20. N.F.L. Players Gala
Professional football players are honored for off-the-field service at this gala sponsored by NFL Today host James Brown and the N.F.L. Players Association. The 2009 event, which raised $985,000 for the Special Olympics in 2008, took over the Washington Hilton on April 16.

21. Shakespeare Theatre Company Gala
At the theater company’s 21st annual gala in October 2008, patrons were treated to a two-hour Romeo and Juliet tribute show at the Harman Center for the Arts, followed by dinner at the National Building Museum. This year’s gala is set for October 26.

22. Phillips Collection Annual Spring Gala
Once a year, 400 art lovers get a chance to dine and dance among masterpieces in the galleries of this modern art museum. This year’s gala took place May 15.

23. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre Gala
The renowned dance company celebrated its 50th anniversary February 3 with a dance tribute to singer Otis Redding, followed by a benefit bash at the Kennedy Center. Mayor Adrian Fenty, Jill Biden, and first mother-in-law Marian Robinson were on hand for the gala, which returns next February.

24. Muscular Dystrophy Association’s Heartsongs Gala
The M.D.A.’s seventh annual gala on February 21 was a colorful Bollywood-inspired affair, although significantly smaller than years past, with 300 guests at the Marriott Wardman Park hotel raising $300,000. The gala returns February 20, 2010.

25. Roast for Spina Bifida
Stephen Colbert sat in the hot seat at the Hilton Washington last November for the Spina Bifida Association’s 20th annual fund-raiser, while roasters including Senator Orrin Hatch hurled zingers his way. The event, which raised $450,000, returns this fall.

26. Washington Performing Arts Society Gala
In 2009, this professional arts association welcomed 600 guests to the Marriott Wardman Park hotel, where its 40th annual event was held May 16.

27. National Museum of Women in the Arts Spring Gala
About 500 guests filled both levels of the museum’s great hall for this annual gala in 2008. The benefit returned for a 27th year April 24.

28. Trust for the National Mall Luncheon and Gala
This nonprofit dedicated to preserving and restoring the National Mall raised $500,000 at its inaugural luncheon on the Mall in 2008. This year’s May 7 lunch was followed on May 8 by the black-tie-optional Ball on the Mall, a 600-guest gala hosted by the trust’s young professional branch.

29. Capital Area Food Bank Blue Jeans Ball
Guests left the black-tie outfits at home for this casual-dress affair, held April 5 at a new location, the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The event raised $150,000 from 500 guests.

30. American Red Cross Fire and Ice Ball
This fund-raiser for the American Red Cross of the National Capital Area was pushed back from spring to fall this year. Some 600 guests are expected at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium on October 17.

31. Soccer Ball for D.C. Scores
About 400 guests turned up at the Organization of American States building April 30 for this fund-raiser benefiting America Scores, a nonprofit that works to empower urban youth through academics and athletics.

32. Washington Humane Society Bark Ball
Furry friends are the stars of the show at this benefit, which brought 600 people and 400 dogs to the Renaissance Hotel in 2008. This year’s June 6 fund-raiser moved to the Washington Hilton.

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